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Biofuel From Sago

Sarawak will turn sago waste into bioethanol for fuel.

A pilot plant, with a daily production capacity of one tonne, is under construction at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) in Samarahan, near here.

The plant, which is expected to begin commercial production in six months, is the first in South-East Asia, said Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Fadillah Yusof at the project’s earth-breaking ceremony yesterday.

Unimas and AGS Sdn Bhd were given RM11.6mil under the ministry’s Techno-Fund grant to carry out research and development on sago starch and its effluents and solid waste for production of bioethanol.

“The plant is built based on the success of the research,” said Fadillah.

Unimas’ principal researcher Prof Dr Kopli Bujang said the pilot plant would produce bioethanol as an additive for fuel, which did not need for car engines to be modified.

He said such projects had been implemented in Thailand, the Philippines and Japan, although different substrates were being used.

Dr Kopli said bioethanol fetched between US$400 (RM1,400) and US$700 (RM2,450) a tonne in the market, adding that several Japanese firms had enquired about Unimas’ production.

“Apart from bioethanol, the pilot plant can be used to produce lactic acid from sago starch, which is an expensive commodity for pharmaceutical industries,” he said.

Dr Kopli said future plans would include using sago effluents for the culture of petro-algae for the production of biodiesel.

The plant will have facilities for hydrolysis of starch and cellulose into sugar, fermentation process and downstream processing for distillation and dehydration of the ethanol produced.

Water generated from the distillation stage can be recycled for use in starch hydrolysis.

February bio-diesel output fell 12%

Brazilian bio-diesel output fell 12% month-on-month to 79.65 million litres (21 million US gallons) in February 2009, Latin America News Digest reports.

The production was 6 million litres below the country's bio-diesel demand. The supply director of oil and gas giant Petroleo Brasileiro said the company will be able to raise the bio-diesel blend with fossil fuel to 4% from 3% now, Latin America News Digest reports.

The increase would result in a 5% reduction in oil imports, he said. Last week, Petrobras launched its third bio-diesel plant, in Montes Claros, Minas Gerais state. The unit is operated by Petrobras Biocombustivel, a subsidiary set up in July 2008 to manage the company's bio-fuel production projects. The new plant has the same production capacity as the other two company units in Bahia's Candeias and Ceara's Quixada, of 57 million liters of bio-diesel per year.

Together, the three plants generate jobs and income for thousands of family farmers and are capable of producing 170 million liters of bio-diesel per year. Petrobras and Embrapa have signed three partnership agreements with a total value of $8 million that cover the consolidation and development of technologies that will be used by Petrobras Biofuel in the production of biodiesel and ethanol, Valor Economico reports. One of these will cover the sustainable management of cane straw.

AE Brazil reports that the International Energy Agency forecasts that global production of bio-fuels will slow sharply this year after several years of rapid growth, but it says that the result would be worse were it not for growth in Brazil. IEA said reasons for slowing bio-fuel growth include lower prices of oil, the restriction of credit, increasingly divergent government support and falling forecasts for transport fuel demand. (14 April 2009)

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